Back in July the Central Street Farmhouse was collecting submissions for the History on Tap Homebrew Competition. This collaborative effort between the Bangor Historical Society and Geaghan Brothers Brewing Company asked homebrewers to brew a beer with traditional ingredients, methods or in historical styles. The winning entry would win a $100 Gift Card to Geaghan’s Pub and Craft Brewery, a copy of Stephen Harrod Buhner’s book “Sacred and Herbal Healing Beers”, a $25 Central Street Farmhouse gift card and the big prize, they got to brew their recipe with Geaghan Brothers Brewing on a commercial scale. Central Street Farmhouse collected sixteen entries to be judged and after the judging was complete, local homebrewer Jerry Robichaud won with a Kentucky Common.
I got in touch with Jerry to talk about his homebrew entry and experience brewing with Geaghans:
How long have you been homebrewing?
I’ve been brewing for 4 years. I don’t brew the same beer over and over, I’ve been working my way through the different styles. I’ve brewed at least 35 different styles so far.
Have you ever entered a homebrew competition before?
I have entered the local competition through the Farmhouse, but that was the first year I was brewing and just learning the process.
How did you choose Kentucky Common as the style?
I did the Kentucky Common because I had heard about it on one of the beer Podcasts I listen to and thought, here’s a style that sounds fun, I’d never tried a sour note in a beer. I was in the process of getting ready to brew when they announced the competition and thought, nice, fits right in with what I’m brewing!
How did you make sure the beer was historically accurate?
Looking online I found a story that included copies of old recipes so I had a good idea of the grist makeup of the beer. The process came from listening to the podcast, how they thought it was done.
From what I understand of the style it usually had a tart flavor. Different sources cite different reasons from contaminated yeast to sour mashing and maybe most likely contaminated cooperage. How did you achieve a sour aspect in your offering or did you?
The first brew I tried what is called mash souring. You do your regular mash, then at the end toss in a handful of raw grain, it has lactobacillus on it, then cover to keep oxygen out, leave it overnight then sparge and brew as with any other beer. Well the first attempt ended up getting oxygen which promotes all kinds of nastiness, so that got dumped.
The second attempt was better but I still wasn’t happy with the outcome.
I decided that since the stories about the style differed on whether it was actually sour or not I would just brew the beer as a normal brew. It came out nice, although it had a little roastiness in it that I thought was out of style, but time ran out and that’s what I turned in for the competition. The ABV was right for the style, low 4%, it was going to be fairly fresh, within 3 weeks of brewing and since the BJCP (Beer Judge Certification Program) guidelines came out with a style description I had a chance to taste it while reading the style notes.
I actually brewed a fourth batch using the guidelines to tweak the recipe, lose the roastiness, up the percentage of corn, and lighten the color. I actually like the last version better. Six weeks down the road and it’s pouring a nice beer!
Tell me about brewing with Geaghan’s, how did their process differ from your homebrew process?
Brewing with Geaghan’s was of course fun, I had met Andy a few times at different events. Their setup in Bangor is much like Asa’s in Orono. Andy and Ryan were great to talk to, I picked their brains as to processes, recipe formulation, and all kinds of questions I had about their move to Brewer and a larger system.
Did the recipe change much when scaling it up or was it brewed differently?
Andy let me make suggestions about the recipe, I had brought in samples of my 2nd sour, the brew I turned in, and the last brew. We actually did some blending between the three to see if the sour note could be reached that way. Andy was going to do a sour mash so I think he appreciated that I brought the samples.
So we mash in one day, leave it over night, and brew the next day. All goes well until the mash gets stuck, which happens some time, but this time was the worst that they had ever had! They worked through it and ended up a little low on the extraction side but a little lower ABV in the end is not a bad thing with this style. Into the fermenter it went, the taste was similar to mine, we had added some rye to the grist which gave it a nice flavor.
Unfortunately, when meeting Andy at Nocturnem the following week, bad news, because of the stuck mash the beer was not coming out right and they dumped it. They did another batch but this time instead of mash souring, they did a kettle souring.
Have you tried the finished beer?
I haven’t had the chance to taste it yet but hope to tomorrow or Friday.
Thanks to Jerry Robichaud for answering my questions and Geaghan Brothers Brewing for supplying me photos from the brew day.
The History on Tap unveiling of Jerry’s beer will be on Thursday September 17, 2015 at Geaghan Brothers Brewery on Abbot Street in Brewer. Tickets are still available but will sell out this week so get yours for a first chance to try Jerry’s Kentucky Common. The style was popular around Louisville, Kentucky from 1850 until prohibition and has never regained popularity. There are very few commercial examples of this beer available, History on Tap is a good opportunity to taste a bit of history and chat about brewing with Jerry and the crew from Geaghan Brothers Brewing there will also be other Geaghan Brothers beers available to sample. Attendees will also be treated to a pulled pork slider bar provided by The Family Dog and a sampling of sweets from Simply Sweets Pastry Studio.